Well, everyone decided to grade the Thunder. I’m going to do my version of the grades. Remember before you go ahead and disagree with my grading, I am just a fan and no expert by any means. I do feel I’m pretty close though.
Russell “Honey Badger” Westbrook
Before the season if you told me Westbrook would be a second team all NBA selection while averaging the most turnovers in the NBA, I’d probably to tell you to step away from 2K11 for awhile because you don’t know what you’re talking about. However, that’s exactly what happened. He was a facilitator of the game whether so many of you agree or not. He was top 10 in assists all season long. Remember early in the season all that MVP talk that everyone did on RW? Sure you don’t. You’re the person who forgets what good he does and focuses on how he tries to will us to victory. Westbrook is just 22 years young and is an all-star. He’s an All-NBA point guard. Yeah, I said it, point guard. He’s become one in only three years time.
Now, hold on before you jump down my throat for this. Kevin Durant was expected to win the MVP this season. He did not. However, that does not take away from his game. He led the league in scoring for the second consecutive season. He became a solid defender and led his team to a 55 win season. Tons of room for improvement for this already NBA superstar. He is aware of this, and as a fan (or should I say obsesser) I see this too. Tons of great moments with Durant to relive. His fade away, buzzer-beating shot against the Knicks. His foul against the Nuggets in Game 5 that pretty much sealed it. I could write all day long on the greatness of Kevin. However, I don’t feel he was his best. I think he was better last season. I think he believes it too. I say this off no basis at all.
We compare stats from last year, everything is almost down. Shooting percentages across the board, rebounds, assists, however, his turnovers are down. He averaged half a turnover less than he did last season.
Overall though, it’s considered okay when he started getting the help from Westbrook and James Harden. Took some of the load off of Durant at times and he was able to flow into his game. It’s also great to point out that Durant’s minutes were down as well. Not by much, but they were still lower.
Before the all star break it’s easy to say Harden was in a funk. Shooting just 41% from the field, and averaging juts 10.3 PPG (point per game). After the All-Star break, he was a new man. He averaged 15.8 PPG and starting shooting much better (46.5%). It’s not hard to say when it happened. Harden was snubbed in the Rookie-Sophomore All-Star game. However, due to an injury he was invited as a replacement. Harden did not disappoint. He led the Sophomores in scoring with 30 points on 11 made baskets. He lit up the rest of the way, especially after the Jeff Green trade.
Still, hard to say how big of an impact that Harden has on the offensive role of the Thunder. Well, was hard until Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. It has always been understood that Harden is the superior to Sefolosha on the offensive end. Harden has been on the floor during late game situations. However, when he fouled out in game 4, the offensive just collapsed. Dallas keyed on Durant and no one was able to make anything.
Before the All-Star break Harden would be get a grade of just a C-. He brought it hard the second half of the season and in the playoffs. Stat to prove it: When Harden scores 17 or more points the Thunder are 14-6, but more specifically, they are 11-3 since the all star break.
At the end of the season last year Ibaka showed great potential and great things were expected. Started off the bench, because at the end of the season, no reason to fix a lineup that was never broken. However, he was fantastic before the trade deadline anyway. Ibaka shot 56% from the field and averaged 2.1 blocks per game. When the trade happened, Ibaka moved into the starting line up. Some said it was too soon, but Ibaka shut up all questions. He ended up leading the league in blocks and up his points per game average by a full point. When Kendrick Perkins joined the team, it allowed Ibaka to roam free and was able to become a huge defensive presence. With a selection in the slam dunk contest and to the Rookie-Sophomore All-Star game, I feel he exceeded his expectations. However, against Dallas Ibaka was a little less than effected and that should not over shadow the great season that he had!
He gave himself a D. I give him a C-. Why? Well, he tore every ligament in his knee and he came back early and played with all kind of heart that the Thunder didn’t have before he got here. He brought a confidence and a “don’t mess with me” attitude to the organization. All the technical fouls he accrued were not in vain. He basically told the rest of the NBA that we aren’t a pushover and if you come in the lane, you’re going to feel it. All that said, he struggled shooting even from within the three foot range and couldn’t hit a free throw even if his career depended on it. A lot of it is because of his lack of jumping ability due to the injury. Perkins might not even be 60%. However, he was out there giving everything to help bring a championship home to Oklahoma City. I’d put that Dwight Howard, Lebron James, Dewayne Wade wouldn’t do that. They’d stay out until fully healthy. If anything he deserves an incomplete.
Collison is the best defender on our roster. I dare you to disagree with me. Collison led the league in charges. He brought his hard hat to work, did his job and excelled. He rarely was beaten off the ball and is very under rated. What he did in the post season was just a reflection of his over all season. While other were ripping Russell Westbrook, People were also learning about Nick. One of the hardest working individuals in the league. He takes every assignment and doesn’t complain. Does it, and does it well. Last season Thabo Sefolosha was the defender everyone thought was the best this season. This season, Collison bodied everyone up. They tried to get physical, he got physical. He got technical fouls from not allowing players to bully him. I respect that. If you don’t like what Collison brings to this organization, then you don’t like real Thunder basketball.
So hard to give Sefolosha a good grade. He wasn’t the defender he was last season. Every statistical category was down from last season. Players he was able to slow down last season, exploited his defensive weaknesses. He was foul prone. Thabo averaged almost another foul per game compared to last season. Even though his offensive number are down, they were misleading. He didn’t take as many shots, but his field goal percentage was up, so was his free throw percentage. Down the stretch I wouldn’t have been against a move to the bench for Sefolosha. However, one thing I noticed, any time the talk got serious about moving him to the bench, he’d come out, pop 14 points and grab 7 rebounds. I don’t think he helped or hurt the Thunder this season. He was just there.
Cook was brought in as a three point specialist. He had won a three point shooting contest and we lacked a real sharp shooter. At times he became that. He would drop 18 here and there from three point range. However, then you’d have games like game 6 of the second round against Memphis. He went 0-4 from three point range. He ended up shooting a career high from three, 42.2%. He was a defensive liablity and it really curled his minutes. He would bite on pump and ball fakes. A lot of time, because he’s such a spot up shooter, he would just stand in the corner, and it would help turn our offensive into a stalemate.
Maynor really struggled at times during the season. Statistically, he’s struggled at times, only hitting 40.2% for the season. Maynor, for all the stupid talk about possibly starting ahead of Russell Westbrook, need to realize Maynor actually shot worse in the playoffs than Westbrook. Especially after the All-Star break and the trade, Maynor struggled. I don’t know whether he felt threatened by Nate Robinson. Maybe Coach Brooks reassured his second year point guard from VCU that he was safe. I’m not sure. Towards the end he started playing well. Still can’t take away that Maynor averaged less than a turnover a game (0.9 turnovers per game). Maynor is almost perfect on the turnover end at home. Averaging half a turnover less (0.7 at home, 1.2 road) when in the OKC Arena.
You have to feel for a guy a bit that was starting on an NBA team, traded again, to only really sit on the bench and have very little contribution. In the regular season while in Oklahoma City Mohammed did everything he was asked. He disappeared in the playoffs though, only averaged 10 minutes a game. His shooting was down considerably (41% for a center). Mohammed fits the organization well. An NBA journeymen looks to found himself a home for the rest of his career. He’ll have to be more consistent on the offensive end.
I’m sorry if you love big Nate. He’s an energetic guy. However, I have to do this in an unbiased manor. He committed 8 fouls in four games and only 28 minutes of play. He shot 26.7%, and turned the ball over way too much for that. Even though it was just garbage time, the epitome of his worst season as a pro concluded in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. JJ Barea ate him up for 12 consecutive points defensively, and he went 0-3 from the field. Wasn’t even close. I’ll be really surprised if he’s in Oklahoma City for extended time.
Now, is he the best energy guy in the league? That’s a great argument and his antics on the bench get him mentioned even though he doesn’t play. He doesn’t moan about his lack of playing time. He just wants to be able to prove himself when he gets his touches and supports his team. I’d give him an A+ for supporting his team and team chemistry.
Cole Aldrich, Byron Mullens, Robert Vaden and Royal Ivey
All in all, I would call this season a ROUSING success. We improved off a season where we won 50 games. We advanced to the Western Conference Finals. The world fell in love with what we have already loved. Next season: NBA Finals!!We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!